The intercellular tight junctions (TJs) of endothelial cells represent the limiting structure for the permeability of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Although the BBB has been recognized as being the interface between the bloodstream and the brain, little is known about its regulation. Zonulin and its prokaryotic analogue, zonula occludens toxin (Zot) elaborated by Vibrio cholerae, both modulate intercellular TJs by binding to a specific surface receptor with subsequent activation of an intracellular signaling pathway involving phospholipase C and protein kinase C activation and actin polymerization. Affinity column purification revealed that human brain plasma membrane preparations contain two Zot binding proteins of approximately 55 and approximately 45 kDa. Structural and kinetic studies, including saturation and competitive assays, identified the 55-kDa protein as tubulin, whereas the 45-kDa protein represents the zonulin/Zot receptor. Biochemical characterization provided evidence that this receptor is a glycoprotein containing multiple sialic acid residues. Comparison of the N-terminal sequence of the zonulin/Zot receptor with other protein sequences by BLAST analysis revealed a striking similarity with MRP-8, a 14-kDa member of the S-100 family of calcium binding proteins. The discovery and characterization of this receptor from human brain may significantly contribute to our knowledge on the pathophysiological regulation of the BBB.